Britannia Biographies: John Hampden Part 6
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Biography of John Hampden (1595-1643) MP

J O H N
H A M P D E N
Part 6: Reflections

His death, according to Sir Philip Warwick, was regretted even by the King, "who looked on his interest, if he could gain his affections, as a powerful means of begetting a right understanding between him and the two Houses." To his own party, it was irreparable. It removed the fittest person for the chief command of their troops which, it is not unreasonable to suppose, would, upon the removal of Essex, have been vested in him. It deprived them of a leader and adviser who, of all, was the most likely to have confined his wishes to the establishment of a secure peace on the basis of a strictly limited monarchy. Thus the way was opened to the ambition of Cromwell, which probably would never have been developed if Hampden had lived to direct the counsels of the Parliament.

A portion of Lord Clarendon's character of Hampden in the estimation of his countrymen has already been given from the 'History of the Rebellion'. Of his ability as a public speaker, Clarendon says, "He was of that rare affability and temper in debate, of that seeming humility and submission of judgement, as if he brought no opinion of his own with him, but a desire of information and instruction. Yet he had so subtle a way of interrogating and, under the notion of doubts, insinuating his objections that he infused his own opinions into those from whom he pretended to learn and receive them." "He was indeed a very wise man and of great parts, and possessed of the most absolute spirit of popularity and the most absolute faculties to govern the people of any man I ever knew." "After he was among those members accused by the King of high treason, he was much altered, his nature and carriage seeming much fiercer than they did before; and without question when he first drew the sword he threw away the scabbard." Of his personal character and habits, Clarendon says, "He was very temperate in diet and a supreme governor over all his passions and affections, and had thereby a great power over other men's He was of an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or wearied by the most laborious and of parts not to be imposed upon by the most subtle and sharp, and of'a personal courage equal to his best parts; so that at he was an enemy not to be wished wherever he might have been made a friend; and as much to be apprehended where he was so as any man could deserve to be." What was said of Cinna might well be applied to him, 'He had a head to contrive,and a tongue to persuade, and a heart to execute any mischief.'" Clarendon thought that Hampden was engaged in a mischievous cause. Those who thought and think differently, instead of 'any mischief' would write 'any benefit.' The political bias of Clarendon is obvious enough, but the character, of which we have only selected certain portions, is drawn with much discrimination and skill.

Edited from Lord Brougham's 'Old England's Worthies' (1857).


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